Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund
Aerin is a fugitive, running from the memory of her father’s death and the last seven years of her life on a slave planet. Dane is a privileged rich boy who chafes against the boundaries of his family and his life. The only thing they have in common is that they are both students at Academy 7, the most prestigious school in the Alliance—and that they are both living with buried secrets, secrets that haunt them.
What starts as an academic rivalry soon turns to mutual admiration, and then friendship. As Aerin and Dane grow closer, they begin to let down some of their walls. But there are some secrets that are too deep to share with even the closest of friends—until they begin to realize that maybe, their respective secrets are larger than just themselves.
It’s the oldest story in the book—boy meets girl, rich kid falls for the girl from the wrong side of the tracks. It’s not original, but it works very well here—because Osterlund focused her energies on making these characters people who we care about. This book is an excellent study in character. Aerin and Dane are both multifaceted and compelling, and watching them grow and change with each other is a joy. Aerin especially is a great strong female protagonist—she’s tough and determined.
It’s also fairly rare to find real teen science fiction these days, amidst the popularity of fantasy and paranormal and vampires and whatnot. Not that I don't enjoy those, too--but it's very refreshing to find a book that's straight-up SF. This book doesn’t focus too much on the science fiction elements, but they are there, and they’re tantalizing. I enjoyed the glimpse I got of Osterlund’s Alliance and the universe beyond, and I hope she plans on taking us back there on day.